Trends: the belly chain, a multifaceted ornament
The “Medusa” Belly Chain, a WellDunn design.
Above all a traditional African accessory symbolizing femininity, the belly chain has been enjoying a popular comeback since last summer. Whether it's to beautify your curves, reconnect with your body or even celebrate self-love, this (often) handmade piece of jewelry is a multi-faceted ornament that can be worn by everyone.
We have seen it several times on Rihanna, Beyoncé or even characters from the hit series Euphoria: the belly chain, whether made of strung glass beads or steel stainless, is the new bucket hat.
Châtelaine Gastin, who makes this type of jewelry by hand and sells it on Gytana, her online store created in 2015, confirms the recent craze. “For the past month or two, there has been a lot of activity on my site despite the fact that I do not do any promotion,” explains the one who returned from sick leave.
Since the searches included especially words like “body pearls” and “body chains”, Châtelaine (the woman, not the magazine) decided to focus on making this type of jewelry when she restarted her activities.
Maëlla Colas, owner of online store LëaM, has also seen “high demand” for cut beads since she started selling them two years ago. “I received a message from someone in my network asking if I was able to make size beads. […] I took it from there, then I decided to do more and market them”, she mentions.
The designer even goes so far as to say that belly chains are now her most popular jewelry. “I started getting a high volume of orders in a short time,” she recalls.
According to the lecturer at the ESG UQAM Fashion School Philippe Denis, this is not the first time that the belly chain has had its moment of glory. “We had a first wave in the early 2000s, then a return to 2014-2015 and there it comes back again,” he says.
Indeed, Dominique Dunn, who founded the jewelry company WellDunn in 2011, mentions that she was creating more body chains in 2015. More recently, body jewelry handmade in her workshop in the Rosemont district make up her latest collection. “It had been a few years since the trend for body chains was less present because we were more into minimalist jewelry. It may be the post-pandemic effect where people want to express themselves more and dare to go to more fragmented rooms, ”she mentions.
An African tradition
The very first time Maëlla Colas heard about cut jewelry 20 years ago from a friend of Senegalese origin. “She had gone to visit her family and she brought back beaded waist chains as a gift,” she says.
Indeed, Philippe Denis explains that this accessory is a West African tradition found mainly in Senegal. There is no machine to create the original model, i.e. beads strung on a cotton thread. “There is this valuation of the handmade. It comes to thwart the industrial fact that we have decried a lot in recent years, ”he continues.
However, this tradition has been somewhat lost over time. “From generation to generation, we have somewhat forgotten our roots,” continues Mr. Denis.
It is by drawing on her African origins that Châtelaine Gastin, whose father is Egyptian and Lebanese, got wind of body pearls and their benefits. “It's something that has been used in Africa for a long time for a lot of things, including measuring your waistline and posture,” she explains.
The creations of Maëlla Colas
For all bodies
If waist jewelry is often worn as a symbol of femininity and sensuality, Philippe Denis warns: “The chain forces you to have a certain posture, to realize that you have a few extra pounds, to be careful . So are we really in this desire to advocate diversity in the beauty of body shape? I have a doubt.”
This sacredness of authenticity, of finding a certain beauty in diversity, is a double-edged sword. We come to a certain stage where self-esteem must be achieved at all costs.
Philippe Denis, lecturer at UQAM
But Maëlla Collas is adamant: belly chains are for all body types. “A lot of women tend to think that belly chains and waist beads are only for slim women, that you need a flat stomach to wear them. It’s absolutely false, ”says the one who has long prevented herself from having one. “Whether you're a size 4 or a size 24, you can still wear them,” she reiterates.
No prejudice either on the side of Châtelaine Gastin, who thinks that everyone has the right to wear a waist chain. “If someone just wants to have a weight loss tool, that's okay. If it’s someone who just wants to decorate their body, who loves themselves and who wants to promote self-esteem, no problem, ”she argues.
LëaM by Maëlla Colas: visit her online store.
WellDunn by Dominique Dunn
The “Medusa” chain by WellDunn
Gytana by Châtelaine Gastin: visit her online store.